The Broncos have made it clear all along they wouldn’t mind throwing the ball fewer times than in 2012, when they averaged 37 passing attempts in the regular season. It’s not a stylistic issue as much as it is a realization that it would be a product of, among other things, an improvement in the ground game.
So if Saturday night’s 27-26 victory over the St. Louis Rams truly came in a dress rehearsal game destined to be a preview, rather than a meaningless exhibition, the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High at least raised eyebrows — and perhaps concern.
Peyton Manning threw a staggering 25 passes in the first quarter alone, and went 25-for-34 for 234 yards in the half before Brock Osweiler took over for the second half. Of Manning’s 25 completions, only two were for more than 15 yards — a 23-yarder to Andre Caldwell and a 17-yarder to Knowshon Moreno. And 13 of the 25 gained fewer than 10 yards.
The extenuating circumstances tied to the high number of Manning throws included the Rams’ long return of a Ronnie Hillman fumble that set up a short touchdown, and a long punt return that set up another St. Louis score, keeping the Rams’ offense off the field and skewing the time-of-possession figures.